LAS VEGAS – The best team in the ECHL and the worst team in the ECHL played a pair of games this weekend in Las Vegas at the soon-to-be-defunct Orleans Arena.
In the first game, the Wranglers were so dominating it stunned Ontario. They scored two goals off Justin Berhardt and Adam Hughesman in the first period. In the second period, Adam Huxley of the Wranglers scored Las Vegas’ third goal, making the score 3-0 Wranglers.
In the third period, the Wranglers struck again with Berhardt scoring his second of the game. Ontario finally started scoring with Mario Lamoureux gaining a point past goalie Travis Fullerton with a pass from Cameron Burt. But the Wranglers weren’t done. Chad Nehring snuck one in to make the score 5-1.
In a last-minute rally, Gaspar Kopitar scored to make the final 5-2 which happily surprised the sold out crowd.
The second game was before an equally full house at the Orleans. The Wranglers looked to win again, but this time the Reign were prepared. The Orleans was a full house for this second and final game of the two.
Jussi Olkimoura was netminder for both games. The second game started with sniping, pushing and shoving in front of the Las Vegas net. The score remained goose eggs until Ontario sniper Mario Lamoureux broke through Fullerton’s defense and Ontario took the lead at 1-0. The shot was a rebound off a blast from defenseman Sacha Guimond with additional help from Matt White.
The second period brought about more scuffling and more penalties for both teams. Both Kyle Bigs of Ontario and Nick Wheeler of the Wranglers were sent to the box for two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct minors. Las Vegas Chad Nehring rang up his fifth goal of the season and tied the game at 1-1, assisted by Justin Bernhardt and Greg Coburn. Las Vegas led in shots, 17-14 with Olkimoura handling each stealthily as Ontario defenseman Cody Sol went to the box for interference. The Reign nearly scored a short-handed goal off Brendan Rempel’s elbowing minor, but Fullerton’s fast reflexes kept the score tied until Gaspar Kopitar wristed the puck past the Finn during a Reign power play a few minutes later.
The Reign held onto the lead for the remainder of the game. In the third period, Riley Brace got his third goal as an Ontario team member with an assist from Steven Tarasuk playing his first game as a Reign. Just two minutes later, Cameron Burt grabbed a goal for himself unassisted for the Reign and the score was 4-1. Las Vegas put up a great fight to climb back. Matt Tassone helped Las Vegas cut the lead to two goals, but that was the last score of the game.
Final score was 4-2. Olkinoura gets the win with 27 saves and a total of four wins for the season so far, Fullerton had 31 saves and takes the loss.
Ontario’s record is now 63 points – 29-9-2-3, Las Vegas’ record is 26 points – 11-25-3-1
Ontario remains in the lead of the Western Conference with 63 points.
The Alaska Aces are second with 57 points. They split a pair of games with Idaho this weekend, winning Friday night’s game 3-2 and losing Saturday’s game 4-2. It was announced January 31st that former SF Bulls’ players Jordan Morrison and Brett Findlay joined the team.
The Colorado Eagles are third in the Western Conference with 51 points. They lost to Ontario on Wednesday January 29th 4-2 and beat Stockton Saturday, 7-5.
Fourth place in the Western Conference is a log jam with three teams sharing 47 points: Idaho Steelheads, Utah Grizzlies and Stockton Thunder.
Utah won over Las Vegas Wednesday, January 29th and beat Bakersfield Saturday 2-1.
Bakersfield has 38 points and Las Vegas is at the bottom of the ECHL with 26 points.